A tragedy in Tucson, and more arguing on talk TV

By Frazier Moore

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

NEW YORK — In the wake of the Arizona shootings, conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck issued a challenge to all Americans to reject violence.

Liberal talk-show host Keith Olbermann voiced his own call for repudiating violence.

Has Saturday's rampage inspired a measure of consensus and a softening of rhetoric among cable TV's more confrontational hosts?

Not that you could tell from Monday's clash of TV pundits, even as they reacted to accusations that the polarized environment in which they operate may have helped spark the tragedy.

From program to program, as conservative and liberal hosts dwelled on the horrible event, they found little if any common ground. Just as any other night, they found much to dispute. And, as usual, they seized on opportunities to slam one another.

"I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don't have to do it with bombast," said Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, in an exchange with music mogul Russell Simmons, posted Monday on Simmons' website.

"I hope the other side does that," Ailes said.

Monday night, it all seemed pretty hopeless.

Shortly before Beck's show aired on Fox News Channel, Jared Lee Loughner made his first court appearance in a packed federal courtroom in Phoenix. He has been accused in the weekend attack outside a Tucson supermarket that killed six people and injured or wounded 14 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"The media and politicians are trying to sell you the idea that this guy is a right-wing nut job moved to action by Fox News or me or Sarah Palin," said Beck, adding that most coverage of the tragedy "would quite frankly embarrass the worst basement blogger in his underpants."

Palin has been criticized by some for using crosshairs on a website graphic to indicate congressional districts, including Giffords', where she wanted Republicans to win in last fall's election.

"Everybody's playing politics with a national tragedy," Beck said.

Declaring that everyone should "stand against violence," he declared himself the leader in this movement he was launching.

As it happened, "Countdown" host Olbermann had already made his own such challenge, mostly aimed at conservative politicians and commentators, on his MSNBC program Saturday night. He repeated that challenge Monday, along with his own apology for anything he may have said in the past that "could be construed as advocating violence."

But Olbermann added that, two days after the shootings in Tucson, the effect of the tragedy in "uniting this country in a commitment to abandon the rhetoric of violence" was "almost negligible."

Ed Schulz, the liberal host of MSNBC's "The Ed Show," seemed to agree.

"The ideological divide is so great in America, I don't think anything is going to change in the conversation," Schulz said on his show.

The geographical divide between MSNBC and Fox News Channel is only a few blocks along Manhattan's Sixth Avenue, and Schulz expressed the need to be honest on his show, "because there's a lot of stuff, especially across the street, that is not the truth, that is embellished to the point where it might make somebody think that doing something radical is the right thing to do."

On Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," conservative host Bill O'Reilly decried "the far-left MSNBC line. The hatred spewed on that cable network is unprecedented in the media."

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